Posted on July 18th, 2009 15 comments
I was sitting on the Metro platform at Mt. Vernon Square yesterday evening. It was a quarter to six. The Cubs were in town playing the Nationals, and I was waiting for the Green Line train down to the ball park for the second game in the series. I had come down the first set of stairs onto the platform, and saw that the Metro employees had set up one of those huge industrial-strength fans blowing right at the bench that is tucked under the escalator, and a couple of them were sitting there cooling off, so I had joined them.
A baseball game always means a busy evening for the Green Line, and this evening was no exception. There were plenty of people milling about on the platform, some in Cubby blue, others in Nats red. In retrospect, the bench I was sitting on is isolated from the rest of the platform; “sketchy,” Hedda called it. But I’ve ridden the Metro a thousand times before, and felt uncomfortable only a few of those times; my hackles weren’t raised this evening. I was playing solitaire on my iPhone.
And suddenly my phone was snatched out of my hand by someone behind me. After a half-second of stunned incapacity, I spun around, and saw a body disappearing around the other side of the escalator. I jumped up and followed and caught up to the person before they got much farther. Honestly, I was expecting to see a friendly face, perhaps one of my friends from Hedda’s days on the Nader Campaign or from my game group, pulling a prank on an unsuspecting me. Instead, I was met with a face I’ve never seen before: a large black man, several inches taller and fifty pounds heavier than me.
At this point, a strange calm came over me. I knew what was happening, and I knew he had nowhere to go.
“You took my phone. Give me my phone back.”
“What you talking about? I a’int got your phone.”
“You took my phone. Give it back.”
“You’re crazy, man.”
If my phone had been back in my hand at this point, I probably would have dropped the whole thing. Instead, I realized this is getting nowhere quickly, and so I started yelling “Police! Police!” (I know, so cliché! But it works.) A pair of faces framed in Cubs royal blue peered around at me from the other side of the escalator; I made eye contact with them and said, “Go get the police. This guy just stole my phone.” They nodded, and left, and I turned back towards the thief, and told him again to give me my phone back.
He walked around the platform, and I followed him – back a bit – to make sure I wouldn’t lose track of him. After a bit, a Yellow Line trained pulled up in the station, and he boarded. I stood outside the open door and stared at him, memorizing what clothes he was wearing, the color of his shoes, his hair cut, the number of the car he was on. He taunted me to get on the train with him. Ten seconds later, the doors closed, and the train started to move.
It was then I noticed a station manager walking up to me from the tunnel side. I ran up to him, pointed out the guy in the car as it was passing, gave him the car number, and explained he’d tried to rob me. He immediately went over to a phone to call in the Transit Police, and then he took me up to the kiosk to wait. We chatted for a bit, and I learned a great deal about the problems with kids that they have on the Metro, in large part because they have unlimited-ride cards. They get on the Metro system and then just goof around, and the employees can’t do anything to stop them unless the Transit Police happen to be nearby. (I can’t seem to find any reference to this program online; I’d love to learn more.)
After a few minutes the Transit Police arrived. I filed a report with A. France and M. Bradley, and got myself an incident number. While we were talking, they got a call that they searched the train he was on, and didn’t find him. I’m sure he got off before they were able to stop the train. Hopefully my description will be of some use, though. All was done, so I left and went to the baseball game. While I was waiting for the train – again – I played solitaire on my iPhone.
The Cubs won!
Posted on May 22nd, 2008 4 comments
Meet “The Volvo”. For over a month now, the driver of this Volvo has been parking illegally in front of our building overnight. She usually parks in the evening, after official ticketing stops, and usually leaves in the morning before the DDOT officers make their way down 13th Street – if the even do. We know it’s a she because we’ve seen her now and then in the vehicle.
Now, Hedda and I came to one of two conclusions about this female: Either she is willfully violating the law, and parking in the fire lane in front of our building, or she’s a buffoon, and thinks she’s the luckiest person alive for finding the exact same spot every night just steps from her front door. (We’re pretty sure she lives either next door or across the street.) We’re guessing it’s the former, though, because we know for certain she knows it’s illegal.
How do we know? Because not only is it clearly marked no parking, but she’s even gotten a parking ticket once! (Yeah, we called it in. Hedda actually put a service request in online, and it worked!)
After her ticket, she had stopped parking there for a week or so, but then, a couple of weeks ago, she was back. And back again. And back again. Tonight, while Hedda and I were eating a delicious chicken Caesar salad, she pulled up in front. Except, because there were some folks loading into a car in front of our buidling, she instead pulled forward and right into the fire hydrant zone next to our home. She dawdled a minute, as though waiting to see if the folks there would leave before she got bored, and then shut off her SUV, got out, and walked away.
At this point, we were livid. Not only is she continuing her pattern, but now she’s endangering ours and other buildings in the neighborhood. So when we saw her coming back towards her car a few minutes later, I walked outside and hollered, “We told the people to move their car, so you could have your usual spot back!” A bit cynical and passive-aggressive, sure, but what the hell.
She flips her long, blond hair over her shoulder as she turns her head back towards me and says, “Thanks!”, in either naive sincerity or irony that put me to shame. Sensing my message wasn’t getting through, I added something about how that’s an illegal spot, and so is the one in front of us, and please don’t park there anymore. After another return volley of excuses, I let loose with, “Look, you don’t have some special privilege to park illegally, even if you are from Kentucky.”
She stops. For a moment, I wonder if this pregnant pause will be the end of this, but instead she begins walking towards my perch on the top step of our porch, behind our gate. “Are you being hostile with me?”
“Damn right I am. I’m tired of you parking illegally.”
I’ll admit right here: Things get a bit out-of-order here, as we devolve into a full-fledged street argument. I’ll do my best to summarize her arguments, and my responses.
- Me: “I’m a taxpaying resident of DC, and you’re not entitled to just park wherever you want.”
Her: “So am I.”
Me: “That’s bullshit. Then why do you still have Kentucky license plates. If you live here, you should have DC plates.”
Her, after a pause: “I’ll look into it.”
- Her: “Do you want me to park my car three blocks away and walk home at night in this neighborhood?”
Me: “We’ve lived here for three years, and this neighborhood is pretty benign. And everybody else around here has to find parking – what makes you so special?”
- Me, trying the Crime and Punishment approach: “I know you know it’s illegal, because you got a ticket right here! Stop parking here, or we’ll call in and get them to ticket you again.”
Her: “You did that to me?! You’re a horrible person. You’re a horrible person.”
- Her (and this is where it gets weird): “Do you want me to get raped? I’ve been raped! It’s not pleasant.”
Me: “I’m sorry, but this has nothing to do with that, or you. It’s about the safety and respect of your neighbors. You’re parked in front of a frickin’ fire hydrant!”
Basically, she repeated those same arguments, over and over. The weirdest part was this random dude walking down the street, who tried to get involved. “I park illegally all the time. What’s it to you? What’s it matter to you?” I pretty much ignored him. But the whole fire-life-safety thing seemed not to factor into his mind, either.
So finally, after accusing me of “accosting her”, despite the fact that she physically approached me and I never left our property, she said, “I’ll pray for you,” and walked away.
Yup, leaving her car parked in front of the fire hydrant. So Hedda called 911. An officer arrived a few minutes later, and gave her a ticket. Hopefully the tow truck will be here soon.
- Me: “I’m a taxpaying resident of DC, and you’re not entitled to just park wherever you want.”
Posted on October 5th, 2006 No comments
Shortly after discovering Stoney’s yesterday, Chris and I walked back to the Zipcar I had been driving earlier in the day. When I stopped for gas earlier, I had accidentally left the gas card in my pocket instead of returning it to the visor pouch where it belongs. Fortunately, cognizant that such things happen, Zipcar permits you access to the vehicle you rented for up to two hours after your reservation is over – as long as nobody else has taken the car, of course.
Fortunately, it was still there. I returned it, locked the car, and walked out of the alley where it is parked. That’s when we noticed him. Across the street from us was a man laying sprawled on the curb, his legs dangling in the gutter, sprawled like he had simply fallen. Chris and I exchanged glances and walked towards him. My gut reaction was that there was a random dead guy on the street.
As we approached, I saw that he was still breathing. His dress and hygiene made it apparant he was homeless, but it seemed unlikely even a homeless person would be laying in that place and posture of their own volition. We tried to wake him up, without success: “Sir, are you okay? Sir?”
Finally, I stood up and dialed 911.
“DC 911 Emergency. Police, ambulance, or fire?” asked the lady on the other end.
“Ambulance,” I replied.
“Okay, sir. What’s your location?”
“I’m in the middle of the street, on O Street Northwest between…”
At this point, perhaps hearing the word “ambulance,” the man on the curb sat up.
“Oh! He’s moving. He’s getting up. I think he’s okay.”
“There’s no emergency?”
“No ma’am, I think everything’s okay. Thank you.” And I hung up.
At this point, the no-longer-dead and no-longer-injured man became belligerent. Still sitting on the curb, he started yelling – half at us, half at the empty street – that he was just waiting for the bus, and can’t a man wait for the bus in peace? As if to emphasize his point, he gestured at a sign he was sitting next to – undermining the point though, was the text on the sign reading “Please curb your dog.” He went on about how all the “drunk whities who are wandering all over” the neighborhood, but we go and call the cops on a black man.
He scoffed when we tried to explain that we thought he was injured or sick and were calling an ambulance, again accusing us of calling the cops on him. At this point, Chris got a little angry, and told him that he was stupid for thinking this was about color or race. The gentleman stood up and took a step towards us, asking us if we wanted to “bawl.”
At this point, Chris openly laughed at him, and we walked away. Never a dull moment.
Posted on April 3rd, 2006 No comments
As Hedda mentioned, we had a big party on Saturday night. There was a lot of carnage at this party, including a lit candle getting knocked off its perch, spewing hot wax all over our front window. This post is about neither the party nor the candle, though.
Yesterday, we spent a good portion of the day cleaning up the flat. Chris and I cleaned the counters, did the dishes, and schlepped the garbage and recycling out back to the receptacles behind the building. I was sitting in the open front window scraping wax from the sill and glass when I heard quite a commotion coming from down the alley. It was the unmistakable sound of aluminum cans banging against one another. I brushed it off, intent on my wax scrapings, thinking it was just a homeless person digging through our garbage or one of the 14th Street businesses with whom we share an alley dumping their trash. When I went to take out another bag of trash, however, I realized the truth.
The contents of the recycle bin were strewn across the alley, and our building’s big blue recycle bin was missing. Gone. Vanished. Poof! Lacking either sentience or auto-locomotion, it seemed unlikely to have dumped itself all over the alley, let alone wandered off. No – it had been stolen. Who on earth would steal a recycling bin?
So I called 311. As usual, I didn’t write down the operator’s number, but I explained that I wanted to report a stolen recycle bin. After a few moments of confusion, she informed me that the “phone unit that takes reports is down,” and that I would have to call back every hour on the hour until it was up, at which time I could file a report. My alternative was to trek down to the MPD station and file a report by hand. Fat chance of that over a recycle bin!
Intent on some sleuthing, I went to the apartment building next door (where Zahriya and her fiance live) because I knew they had a security camera pointed pretty much directly at our dumpster. The security officer, who was very nice, explained that that camera was not working, so she could not help. Finally, I resolved to just get it over with and clean up the mess – but not before putting on some thick rubber gloves.
After that decidedly unpleasant business was complete, I was walking back up the alley when I saw Officer Caron pull up in her squad car. Our up-up-upstairs neighbor Greg came out to meet her, too, since he had called 911 to report it stolen. Apparently, he had thrown away an old TV and stereo that afternoon, and they were now missing along with the bin. The theory was that some person had dumped the bin as a means of transporting the garbage electronics. We described the recycle bin to Officer Caron, including some unique markings on it, and she promised to keep an eye out for it. In truth, I was planning to call our garbage collectors the next day to request a new bin.
This evening, we were having dinner and watching basketball with Chris, Katie, Kasey, and Bill, when we saw a police car turn down the alley. Heather noticed that the trunk was open, and made an incredulous comment to that effect. I joked that maybe they had found our recycle bin, and everybody laughed – and then the doorbell rang.
At the door was Officer Caron. She had found our recycle bin! She had found it in front of the 7-Eleven, with the trashed stereo still inside, and had thrown it in her squad car and brought it back to us. Totally freaking sweet! We gave her a hug and offered her some quesadillas, but she had to get back to work. Bill, who is a Virginia State Trooper, was really shocked at how personal and cool both Officer Caron and her actions were, and Hedda and I spent the next ten minutes gushing to him about how great our neighborhood cops are.
So the prodigal recycling bin has returned. I think we may be forced to hold a grand feast in its honor. There’s never a dull moment in the city.
(For you language nazis out there who read my site: Sure, I know that it really didn’t go on some profligate binge – spending all its inheritance in a single 24-hour marathon. It’s a recycle bin – how could it do that? I just like the title because it evokes the similarly named parable, but it was unfortunately not named The Son Who Left and Came Back.)
Posted on February 11th, 2006 No comments
Hedda and I were woken from sleep by a woman screaming in the alley a bit before 2:30 in the morning. I heard her scream while I was still asleep, and the next one woke us both up. We’re used to strange noises coming from the alley – people laughing or talking, cars driving by, wind rattling the construction fence next door – so we looked at each other for a half a second, questioning what we had heard and whether we should be concerned. When we heard the scream a third time, Hedda got up and started getting clothes on , and I lunged for my phone on the nightstand and dialed 911.
The operator picked up before the first ring even finished. I don’t remember the operator’s number, but she immediately asked, “Do you need police, ambulance, or fire?”
“We need the police. There’s a woman screaming in the alley.” As I gave her our address, I walked into the front room to check on Hedda. She had the front door open, and informed me that the fire alarm was going off in the apartment building next door. There were a number of people mingling outside our building because of it. I added, “And the fire alarm is going off next door.” She informed me the police were on their way, and then hung up while I was in the middle of asking her whether or not she wanted my contact information.
I finally got some clothes on and Hedda and I went outside. There was nothing amiss at the end of the alley, and while we were down there, a police car arrived. The total response time was maybe about five minutes. When the car pulled up, we explained what we heard, and the officers took a drive around the alley looking for anything.
I wandered back up to the front of the building. The sidewalk was filled with residents of the building next door, the racious clanging of the fire alarm making it hard to hold a conversation. Two people approached me and asked if the police were here about the scream they had heard. I was surprised that they had heard it, and they told me that when they heard it they checked down the alley and saw two people holding hands.
Another car arrived about then, and we explained all that we knew to the officer in that vehicle. Hedda and I conferred, and agreed that if this had been more than just some people goofing around, there wasn’t anything happening now. We went looking through the crowd of residents for our friends Gabe and DeAnne and Lisa who live next door, but instead I found the first officer taking a look around on foot. I explained to him what I had heard from some of the displaced residents, and he postulated that perhaps it was just some couple being silly.
So it was time to go back inside. On the way back to our building, we found our friends. Since it was cold outside, we invited them into our place until the fire alarm stopped. We stayed up chatting until about 3:30, and it turned out they had also heard the screams.
It was hard to go back to sleep.
Posted on February 4th, 2006 No comments
I was drawn to the front door by the cacophony of two men screaming at one another in Spanish. When I lowered the shade, I saw two men face to face in a, shall we say, extremely heated argument. Both men were hispanic. The first and calmer of the two was wearing a white tee-shirt with a black long-sleeve shirt underneath it, with very short brown hair. The second and angrier of the pair had long, stringy, jet-black hair, that almost seemed wet. He was wearing a black leather jacket. Both men wore tan, suede work boots.
Fearful of this escalating beyond a meer argument, I called 911. Dispatcher 5472 (I think) answered my call. I gave her my address and described the situation. She asked me for a description of the men, and then confirmed the address one more time. She also asked if I would like to leave my name and phone number, which I opted to do. Overall, she was quite professional.
After about ten minutes, the argument died down, and eventually the one in the leather jacket walked away. The one in the white shirt continued to loiter against the fence to our building.
Shortly thereafter, our upstairs neighbor and her mother came home and were unloading their car and carrying the items inside. The mother spoke to the man in Spanish (I think), questioning his presence. Eventually, they finished up, and he left shortly after.
A few minutes later, Hedda came home, and I related the story to her. She told me that she saw those two men in the alley just north of us.
And that’s it. I don’t know when the police finally responded, but thankfully the situation had blown over by then.
Posted on November 4th, 2005 No comments
Since Hedda and I moved to DC a few months back, we have collectively called the police more than any other place we have ever lived together. And although I cannot speak to Hedda’s experiences before the year 2000, it is certainly an unusual experience for me.
I’ve created a new category, labelled 311/911 calls. If you’re not familiar with 311, it’s really quite simple. In the District of Columbia, 311 is the designated non-emergency phone number. You simply 311, and you are connected to a trained dispatcher who can in turn contact the relevant authoraties. Hedda and I have used it to report dangerous traffic signal outages, prostitutes in our neighborhood, and strange trucks idling in our alley in the middle of the night.
In short, it’s like 911, except for things that aren’t life-or-death. And if you’re not familiar with 911, then you’re not watching enough basic cable.
So, in the interest of providing interesting details of my life to the Internet at large, and because I want to keep track of some of this stuff for myself, I have hereby resolved to post any further calls I make to this new category. I’ll also post any calls Hedda makes, if I know about them.
So, without further ado…
This afternoon, about 13:30 EST, I was sitting in our living room, eating a grilled cheese sandwich, and watching Celebrity Poker Showdown on the TiVo. I noticed a man enter the alley next to our building, but then he didn’t pass by the window looking into the alley. That’s very unusual, because people walking into the alley at a normal pace predictably walk by the window a few moments later. So I got curious.
I walked outside, and the man was exiting the alley, zipping up his pants. I mumble a greeting, but I already know what’s happened – he pissed on my building! I poke my head over the fence, and sure enough there’s a puddle of urine on the side of our building. He watches me over his shoulder as he walks away, and then gets into a white delivery truck. I go inside and get my phone. As I’m dialing, they drive away.
I don’t remember the number of the operator with whom I spoke, but I promise I’ll get it next time. I reported to her:
- public urination
- my address
- got into the passenger side of a white delivery truck, Maryland tags 88P 971
- driving south on 13th ST NW
She said somebody would be on their way, and that was that. A few minutes later, a truck for the Downtown DC Squad pulled up in front of our place. (I don’t know exactly what they do for the city…I’d love to find out.) I don’t know if they were responding to my call or not, but that seems to have been the only interesting thing to have happened.
The only thing I didn’t mention on the call was the description of the man.
- wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt with black pants
- african american
- long dreadlocks coming out from the raised hood
- had a thin, filtered cigar-thingy, although I don’t think it was actually lit
And that’s it. Overall, I’m not sure what I expected – the truck was already leaving before I called; and even though I got the tag number, it’d be hard to find him. Besides, the police have better things to do in our neighborhood these days. Still, I’d love to find the owner of the truck and talk to them. The offender wasn’t wearing any sort of uniform, so I’m pretty sure he wasn’t affiliated with the owner of the truck. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to look at the side for the name of a company, although there were markings on the side like a delivery truck would have.